Maybe you’ve heard the expression “the oldest joke in the book,” before. The chicken crossing the road, the “yo mama”, and “knock, knock” jokes. We all know the classic ones, but what’s truly the oldest joke in the book? Today, we’re looking at just that. Here are the top 10 oldest jokes in the books.
10. Say No More
If you often like to keep to yourself in silence, this may be a joke for you. Developed in the 4th or 5th Century AD, this gem found in the Philogelos book of jokes is one everyone can enjoy.
Whether you’re at the dentist or the barber, it seems equally applicable. Here it goes: “Asked by the court barber how he wanted his hair cut, the king replied: “In silence.”
9. Teaching An Old Donkey New Tricks
This joke seems quite rough to hear, but at the time it was first told in the 4th or 5th Century, it was probably funny.
Centered around the idea of a person who is less than intelligent and his donkey, this morbid joke seems to have roots in dad jokes. “A man tried to teach his donkey not to eat by not feeding him.
When the donkey died of hunger, he exclaimed: “I’ve had a great loss. Just when he had learned not to eat, he died.”
8. The First Ever “Yo Mama” Joke
With a name like this, it’s not surprising that this joke is from Ancient Rome. From the year 63BC-29AD, this joke cracked up the Romans and is probably still one of the most elegant “yo mama” jokes I’ve heard to this day.
Could this be the world’s first “yo mama” joke, too? “While Augustus toured his Empire, he saw a man in the crowd who he recognized as having a striking resemblance to himself.
He asked him “Was your mother at one time in service at the Palace?” The man paused and responded, “No, but my father was.” Looks like mic drops aren’t new either.
7. Of Donkeys and Men
Now let’s throw it back to a rather s*xual joke of Egyptian origin. This one is from around the time of 304 BC. It was found in the Instruction of Ankhsheshonq, a 28-page papyrus now found at the British Museum full of humorous material.
The joke is short and sweet, like some of our best one-liners to this day. It goes: “Man is even more eager to copulate than a donkey – his purse is what restrains him.”
6. The Riddle of Man
This Greek joke from 429 BC is found in the book Oedipus Tyrannus, also known as the book where a man desires his own mother.
A more harmless riddle within its pages, but perhaps the most well known. “What animal walks on four feet in the morning, two at noon and three at evening? Give up? It’s Man.
He goes on all fours as a baby, two as a man, and uses a cane in old age.” I swear I heard my grandfather tell this one.
5. How Odysseus Defeated Cyclops
By the title, alone many of you will be able to tell what era and place this joke is from. It originates in 800 BC and was found in Homer’s The Odyssey.
Today, it would be found in a gift shop book of Dad Jokes. The joke is found in the chapter of the Cyclops. When the monster asks for his name, he says his name is “Nobody.”, and then tells his men to attack.
During the attack, the Cyclops asks for help, yelling out “Nobody is attacking me!” and so no one comes to help. Dads today would love that one.
4. The Blind Wife
The blind wife joke was found in the letters of King Djehuti Mes in Egypt. He was also known as King Tjaroy and was known to be quite a funny man.
In the letters, he told this joke dating back to around 1100 BC, which says: “A woman who was blind in one eye has been married to a man for 20 years.
When he found another woman he said to her, “I shall divorce you because you are said to be blind in one eye.” And she answered him: “Have you just discovered that after 20 years of marriage!?”
3. The Three Ox Drivers
This joke is so old we’re not quite sure of its origin, but it dates back to around 1200 BC. It’s also a riddle and goes a little like this *clears throat*: Three ox drivers from Adab were thirsty: one owned the ox, another owned the cow, and the other owned the wagon’s load.
The owner of the ox refused to get water because he feared his ox would be eaten by a lion; the owner of the cow refused because he thought his cow might wander off into the desert; the owner of the wagon refused because he feared his load would be stolen. So they all went.
In their absence, the ox made love to the cow which gave birth to a calf that ate the wagon’s load. Problem: Who owns the calf?! While today this may sound more like a math problem, back in Mesopotamia, this was hilarious and quite a conversation starter.
2. The Bored Pharaoh
Much like the name suggests, this is an old Egyptian joke from 1600 BC found in the Westcar Papyrus. Much like in the British Royalty (and its ruthless tabloids), royals are often the butt of jokes.
This joke features a pharaoh that many believe to be King Snofru. It says: How do you entertain a bored pharaoh? You sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile and urge the pharaoh to go catch a fish!
Here I thought fishnet stockings were a thing of the present millennium… Historians think the stories would have been told at Pharaoh Cheops’ royal court by his sons. Now you can find the papyrus in the Egyptian Museum of Berlin.
1. The Farting wife
There’s something so fun about farting that it truly is beyond space and time. This fart joke goes back to almost 2000 BC and originated somewhere in modern-day southern Iraq, previously Sumer Mesopotamia.
It’s the oldest joke we could find for this list and it’s as you might expect of early humor, quite basic in its comedic material. It goes: “Something which has never occurred since time immemorial: a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap.”
Perhaps not that funny, but interesting to know that men have been refusing to believe that women fart for over 4,000 years.
Did any of these at least make you chuckle even just a little? Yes? No? Well, I’m sure it has to do with context, time, and culture, you know, something like the phrase “a camel going through the eye of a needle.” Just picture in your mind how skinny that camel would have to be! Oh well … Do you know any jokes (clean ones) that you can share with all of us in the comments?